When I got my iPhone back in October, Aiko Island was one of the first games I picked up from the app store. I’ve been intending to review it for a long time and since they’ve just released a free holiday version, there couldn’t be a better time to actually sit down and do it. Besides, if the numbers in Game Center are any indication the developers aren’t doing so well and every purchase gets me closer to more levels to play.
As a gaming platform, the iPhone lends itself very well to puzzle games. I have a hard time getting too deep into RPGs or shooters because of the small screen, but puzzles are perfect for the platform. I’m really into games like Angry Birds that use physics to solve the puzzles. Games LIKE Angry Birds, but not Angry Birds itself. Aiko Island is a fun little physics puzzler.
Aiko are small fuzz creatures that are square, rectangular, or round. Both red and blue aiko live on Aiko Island, and the evil red aiko have stolen all the happy go-lucky blue aiko’s cookies. The gamer’s job is to get them back by clearing the red aiko off each board. You do this by popping them with your finger or taking advantage of gravity to make them fall off the screen. Fortunately, the blue are touch proof, but they are just as prone to falling as the red so you have to plan ahead carefully.
The colors of the aiko and the environment of the island are very vibrant and great to look at on the iPhone display. The 126 levels are divided into four geographic areas with distinct appearances and hazards to deal with. Unfortunately the display eats battery like aiko eat cookies and I found myself draining 50% of my battery life in my more extended play sessions.
The level of difficulty is carefully calibrated and ramps up significantly over the 126 levels in the original release. The level designers add little environmental elements as you get further and further along. After awhile you find yourself using cannons, snowballs, sliding platforms, and aiko swinging from ropes just to get the job done. You also have to take into account explosives, and environmental hazards like icy platforms, but each element is added only after you’ve had time to master the previous one and there aren’t many levels you can’t complete if you’re willing to spend a little time learning how the physics of the game work.
Once you find your way around a level you get one cookie back for your friendly blue aiko. The aiko have facial expressions and I found it surprisingly rewarding when they smiled at me at the end of each level, not to mention the smirks the villainess reds broke out when I screwed up. If you want to work a little harder there are extra cookies available by completing the level quickly and popping the most efficient number of aiko. There seemed to be only one way to complete each board so once you get the method down it’s actually pretty simple to get all three cookies on most levels.
I started out playing in small increments on the train commute or during commercials of whatever TV show I was watching, but that quickly changed. I got to the point where I was constantly telling myself ‘one more level’ and the play sessions stretched out to an entire lunch hour at work. (Side note, somehow it never did acknowledge the achievements that are supposed to be granted for longer play times.)
I was playing on an iPhone 4S and the load times were longer than I expected. I have no experience with the original model 4s, but I read a lot about the processor being upgraded between the models so I was expecting less load time. Regardless, it wasn’t enough to pull me out of the action. More like dragging out the anticipation a bit.
I highly recommend Aiko Island. At the 99 cent price point I probably paid 15-20 cents per hour of play time. That’s a pretty excellent value, especially compared to the play time in your average PC or console game. It does occasionally get repetitive, but the challenge level is pretty well calibrated and new tricks show up regularly to keep things interesting. It’s a stand out in a genre done to death ever since Angry Birds made it big.
This post has gone on too long, so I’m going to post my take on the FREE holiday version separately.